Freedom of Information awareness remains lower within key groups

18 December 2008

Research published by the Scottish Information Commissioner has revealed that, while Scottish public awareness of freedom of information (FOI) is higher than ever before, the awareness amongst particular groups continues to be significantly lower. While overall awareness of FOI stands at 78%, this figure falls to 69% for the elderly, 68% for those with disabilities, and 66% for people aged 18-24.

The findings, which were prepared on behalf of the Commissioner by Progressive Scottish Opinion, reveal that there has been little change since October 2007, when the previous wave of research reported similarly low levels of awareness of the FOI 'right to information'.

Commenting on the findings, the Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion, said:

"While it is encouraging to learn that overall public awareness of freedom of information is increasing, it is nonetheless concerning that awareness amongst certain groups continues to lag behind. FOI can be an invaluable tool when seeking to ensure that individual rights are protected and appropriate services are provided, and it is arguably those groups that report lower awareness who have most cause to make use of the right to information.

"It is therefore clear that more needs to be done to ensure that the young, the elderly, and those with disabilities are fully aware of their FOI right to the information held by public authorities."


For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email

Notes to Editors:

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002:

  • The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right came into effect on 1 January 2005.
  • Around 10,000 public authorities in Scotland are covered by the Act. They include the Scottish Parliament and Government, police forces, the NHS, local authorities, education institutions, and publicly owned companies.
  • Information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in the Act.
  • If an individual believes an authority is wrong to withhold information, there is a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can require release.

The Research Report:

  • The research was conducted on behalf of the Commissioner by Progressive Scottish Opinion. A representative sample of 1002 respondents were interviewed by telephone between 14 and 25 October 2008.The current report is the 6th wave of an annual research study.

  • The full research report was published on 10 December 2008, and is available here.
  • Other findings of the research included:
    • FOI awareness levels have increased by to 78% from since the research began in 2004, and now stands at 78% across the general population.
    • The number of people who believe that public authorities are becoming more open and accountable has decreased to 59% from 64% in 2007.Conversely, the number of respondents who feel that FOISA is useful to them has increased to 67% from 62% in 2007.
    • The number of people who have submitted an FOI request to a public authority has remained static since 2007, at 9%.
    • Awareness of the Scottish Information Commissioner has increased to 21% from 14% in 2007.
    • There remains some confusion amongst respondents between the right to general information under the FOI legislation, and the right to their own personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Scottish Information Commissioner:

  • Kevin Dunion the Scottish Information Commissioner is a fully independent public official, appointed by the Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament.
  • His role actively promotes and enforces compliance with the freedom of information legislation.
  • Since 2005, the Commissioner has issued over 700 formal decisions under the FOI Act.

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